Leaders share the sources of their optimism

Because believing is an act of rebellion

By Guillermo DEL TORO

OPTIMISM IS RADICAL. IT IS THE HARD CHOICE, the brave choice. And it is most needed now, in the face of despair—just as a car is most useful when there is a distance to close. Otherwise it is a large, unmovable object parked in the garage.

These days, the safest way to appear intelligent is to be skeptical by default. We seem sophisticated when we say we don’t believe and disingenuous when we say we do.

History and fable show nothing is ever entirely lost. David can take Goliath. A beach in Normandy can turn the tide of war. Bravery can topple the powerful. These facts are often seen as exceptional, but they are not. Every day, we all become the balance of our choices—choices between love and fear, belief or despair. No hope is ever too small.

Optimism is our instinct to inhale while suffocating. Our need to declare what needs to be in the face of what is. Optimism is not uncool; it is rebellious and daring and vital.

The writer Theodore Sturgeon once said: “90% of everything is crap.” That also means “10% of everything is worth the damn effort.”

And so it goes time after time, choice after choice, that we decide to leave behind a biography or an epitaph. Look around you now and decide between the two. Inhale or die.

Del Toro is an Oscar-winning filmmaker

Because innovation is an art form


WHEN I THINK ABOUT THE CONNECTION between art and optimism, the first person who comes to mind is Leonardo da Vinci.

I’ve been reading about Leonardo for decades—including Walter Isaacson’s outstanding 2017 biography—and in 1994, I bought one of the notebooks, known as the Codex Leicester, in which Leonardo recorded his thoughts and sketched out ideas.

What does a Renaissance artist have to do with optimism? For me, the connection is innovation. I feel optimistic about the future because I know that advances in human knowledge have improved life for billions of people, and I am confident they will keep doing so. And although I am no art expert, everything I have learned about Leonardo leads me to believe he was one of the most innovative thinkers ever.

Today of course Leonardo is most famous for paintings like the Mona Lisa and The Last Supper. But in his mind, Leonardo was not primarily a painter. He thought of himself as an engineer first. In a letter to the ruler of Milan listing his strengths, sent in the early 1480s,

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